|The PSAT Test|
The PSAT is a standardized test given primarily to high school students in eleventh grade. The test score is used for the National Merit Scholarship competition. For this reason, it is also called the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Many students will also take the exam in tenth grade. However, the tenth grade results are not used for the National Merit Scholarship competition. The PSAT is given once a year, in mid-October, but different school districts may have different schedules.
Ideally, the PSAT results can give an indication of how well a student will do on the SAT Reasoning Test. It is a shorter version of the SAT Reasoning Test and contains Reading, Math, and Writing sections. All questions are multiple-choice and the test is two hours and ten minutes long.
Every year, about 16,000 high school juniors will qualify as National Merit Semifinalists. These students, if they maintain good grades, perform well on their SAT tests, and obtain an good recommendation letter from their high school principal, have the chance to become National Merit Finalists during their senior year. Many Semifinalists and Finalists receive offers from colleges, which often include full or near-full scholarships, and Finalists also receive a $2500 National Merit Scholarship.
What score on the PSAT can qualify you as a National Merit Semifinalist? Good question! Actually, there is not an absolute qualifying score, but the table below can be used as a reference:
Some students choose not to take the PSAT test, but this prevents them from becoming Semifinalists. We suggest that each student take a practice PSAT test and compare their score with the reference table above. If the student's practice PSAT test score is less than 15 points below the qualifying score for the student's residence state, it's worth it to seriously practice and prepare for the PSAT. Also, PSAT preparation can help the student on his or her SAT test.
Two Sections-Critical Reading: Each section is 25 minutes long and the two sections contain a total of 13 Sentence Completion multiple-choice questions and 35 Reading Comprehension multiple-choice questions.
Two Sections-Math: Each section is 25 minutes long and the two sections contain a total of 28 regular multiple-choice questions and 10 Student-produced response (Grid-in) questions.
One Section-Writing: This section is 30 minutes long and includes a total of 14 Identifying Sentence Errors multiple-choice questions, 20 Improving Sentences multiple-choice questions, and 5 Improving Paragraphs multiple-choice questions.
Students register for the PSAT at the high school which they attend, and the test is usually held at their high school. Please check with your school guidance counselor for registration information.
October of each year